Review Price free/subscription
The D45SG is part of Intel's Extreme Series of desktop motherboards and that makes it rather interesting. There are seven Extreme motherboards with each model built around a different chipset. These include the 975X based BadAxe D975XBX2 (our test bench motherboard for quite a while), the D5400XS that is a workstation board adapted for gamers and codenamed Skulltrail. Then there's the DX58SO Smackover that's the current Core i7 model and a couple of other Core 2 boards; the DX38BT and the DX48BT2.
This leaves the DG41TY, which is built on a G41 chipset. Now, we like G41 well enough but the very idea that any G41 motherboard qualifies as ‘Extreme' is absurd as G41 is a budget chipset that is intended to support the junior members of the Core 2 family with the minimum of expense, not provide extreme performance.
And so we come to the DG45SG which is a P45 chipset motherboard that supports Core 2 CPUs with dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 graphics slots and CrossFire. With a price tag just above the £100 mark this positions the DP45SG way, way down the scale from the £200 DX38BT/DX48BT2 models with triple graphics slots.
We can regard the DG45SG as Intel's reference design for an economical gamer's motherboard that makes the most of the features in the P45 chipset. Its LGA775 socket supports every Core 2 processor under the sun (apart from the exotic QX9770) along with a handful of 3000 series Xeons. The lack of support for QX9770 gives the clue to Intel's way of thinking as the P45 chipset does not officially support the 1,600MHz front side bus used by QX9770. Every Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer has managed to add unofficial support for the faster front side bus but Intel, not surprisingly, is obliged to stick to the rules that it wrote.
We don't much care about support for the £1,000 Core 2 Extreme QX9770 but Intel continues its thinking to the memory and that's more of an issue. The four memory slots support DDR3 but the speeds are limited to 800MHz, 1,066MHz and 1,333MHz with no option of going any faster. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Taiwanese P45 motherboard that doesn't support 1,600MHz or faster.
When it comes to ports and connectors Intel has completely ditched support for legacy connections like floppy and IDE. Every other motherboard with a P35 or P45 chipset has an additional controller chip from the likes of JMicron that allows the option of an IDE optical drive but once again Intel is sticking to its guns. Legacy support is a Bad Thing so the only option for your new build is a SATA DVD drive.
The ICH10R Southbridge supports six SATA devices which Intel has chosen to divide with five internal SATA ports and one eSATA port on the I/O panel. The five ports all stand vertically which is far less convenient than having them laid down at the edge of the board and the location of the connectors is highly questionable as well. The problem centres on the second graphics slot. If you run two chunky graphics cards in CrossFire you will find that one or two SATA connectors are blocked and if you're the man in a million who runs a pair of Radeon 4870 X2 graphics cards you'll struggle to find two SATA connectors that are usable.